TVL BRIEFS ROUND AND ORANGE
Illinois bills itself as the country's leading producer of pumpkins, with the town of Morton as the "pumpkin capital" -- an epicenter of all things round and orange. Family-friendly roadside patches and harvest celebrations throughout the state make it an ideal autumn destination.
Even in Chicago, from Oct. 15 to 31, Daley Plaza will be turned into "Pumpkin Plaza," with pumpkin-decorating, fortune-tellers and trick-or-treating. Didier Farms Pumpkinfest, in Prairie View, offers 20 acres for pumpkin-picking and hay rides, through Oct. 31. The 43rd annual Pumpkin Festival in Sycamore takes place Oct. 27 to 31, while the 19th annual Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles is scheduled for Oct. 8 to 10. An Indian Corn Festival is held October weekends in Paris.
To help you plan a three-day trip to take it all in, the Illinois Bureau of Tourism is offering a "Fall Travel Kit." The kit includes a map, parks guide, the fall issue of a travel magazine for the state called "Illinois Now!" and a getaway guide, along with information on scenic drives, festivals and attractions.
To get your Illinois travel kit, call (800) 2CONNECT or visit www.enjoyillinois.com.
BEST WEB SITES
NEW YORK -- The Internet has become an essential planning tool for most travelers. But what sites offer the best deals? Which are easiest to use? And where do you start when you type a destination into Google and your search returns thousands of options?
Travel + Leisure magazine can help. Its October issue offers a guide to the top 35 travel Web sites.
For basic domestic airfares, Travel + Leisure recommends the big three -- Orbitz.com, Expedia.com and Travelocity.com -- but notes that they excel in different areas. The magazine found Orbitz offered best deals on domestic flights, while Travelocity was slightly better for international fares. Expedia's "Book Together and Save" had the most convenient and numerous options for travelers who want all-in-one deals.
Travel + Leisure recommends that budget-seekers check out the prices at Hotwire.com and Priceline.com, while luxury trips at discount prices can be found at luxurylink.com. Adventurous vacationers, meanwhile, should check out iExplore.com.
For a complete list of Travel + Leisure's top 35 travel Web sites, look at the October issue or visit www.travelandleisure.com.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- With the heat of summer gone, fall is the perfect time to plan a trip to northern Arizona. The aspen forests surrounding Flagstaff and Williams turn golden; for hiking trails and scenic drives, visit north of the San Francisco Peaks, Lockett Meadow and the Inner Basin Trail.
Other activities in the area include a car rally at the Arizona Snowbowl, Oct. 22-24 (702-353-7175); a program on the Oct. 27 lunar eclipse from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Lowell Observatory; Fiesta Days, Oct. 30 to 31, at Flagstaff's Museum of Northern Arizona, a celebration of Mexican arts, crafts and music, including folk, Spanish and contemporary traditions, (928-774-5213); and a daylong excursion to the Grand Canyon via a classic diesel locomotive, departing from the Williams Depot (800-THE-TRAIN).
Consider a bike trip up Bill Williams Mountain in the Kaibab National Forest or the Route 66 Bike Trail. Or drive a 144-mile round-trip scenic route from Williams to Perkinsville, Jerome, Cottonwood, Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Flagstaff and back to Williams. Hike the canyons and red rock country surrounding Page and Lake Powell or check out the Oct. 23 Pumpkin Festival in Page.
For more information, visit www.arizonarocks.com.
NEW YORK -- The Big Apple is well-known as a destination for shoppers, theater-lovers and museum-goers. But travelers to New York also include those seeking medical care from the city's many specialists and hospitals.
To help defray costs for these medical travelers, the ITM Hospitality Fund was created in 2002 to arrange free accommodations. Founded by Innovative Travel Marketing, the fund has provided free lodging in donor hotels for more than 300 families visiting for medical care.
The fund awards accommodations on the basis of financial need and distance from treatment facilities, and applications must come from a patient's physician or hospital, not from the individual. For information, visit www.itmhospitilityfund.com or call (973) 808-8287, ext. 12.
The top U.S. gay shopping cities, from Out&About; magazine:
1. Los Angeles
2. New York City
4. San Francisco
5. New Orleans